MOSCOW (Dispatches) — The Russian military has deployed coastal defense missile systems near the Kuril Islands, a Pacific chain also claimed by Japan. The move appeared intended to underline Moscow’s firm stance in the dispute.
The Bastion systems were moved to Matua, a deserted volcanic island in the middle of the chain. Japan claims the four southernmost islands.
Russia’s Defense Ministry posted a video on Thursday showing massive missile carriers moving ashore from amphibious landing vessels and driving along the coast of the volcanic island to take firing positions as part of drills.
The ministry said the deployment involved setting up living quarters for personnel, hangars for the vehicles and other infrastructure.
The Bastion is capable of hitting sea targets at a range of up to 500 kilometers (270 nautical miles).
The deployment followed a series of moves by Russia to beef up its military presence on the Kuril Islands.
The Kuril Islands, located in the Sea of Okhotsk, lie fewer than 10 kilometers from Japan’s Hokkaido, consisting of Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan, and Habomai.
Following Japan’s surrender in World War II, the strategic islands were taken over by the Soviet army in the final days of the war. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the four islands were incorporated into the Russian Federation but Japan continues to lay claim to the islands.
According to a joint declaration signed in 1956, the Soviet Union agreed to return two of the islands provided that a bilateral peace treaty is signed. Japan refused to sign such an agreement, insisting on the return of all four islands.